Image source: 機動戦士ガンダム THE ORIGIN‏ on Twitter

The fifth installment of the Gundam: The Origin series is our first in-depth look at the initial events of the UC Gundam timeline’s franchise-defining war. In it, it completely redefines the war’s greatest tragedy as we see the human element behind it.

Your Complete U.C. Gundam Anime Guide

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is a prequel series to the original Mobile Suit Gundam series. In the first four chapters of Gundam: The Origin, we are shown the early life of Casval Rem Deikun and his growth into the man who is the Gundam franchise’s most iconic character, Char Aznable. In chapter five, Clash at Loum, the focus shifts to the One Year War itself.

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While fanboys like myself are extremely familiar with the narrative of what happened—as has been shown through numerous documentary-style videos, video game intros, and countless online and offline databases—seeing it up close and personal is a different experience altogether. Simply knowing for a fact that three colony clusters—known as “Sides”—were sympathetic to the Earth Federation and faced brutal consequences at the hands of the Zeon army is different from actually seeing images of the massacre play out on screen. Seeing the responses of both the victims and the aggressors really brings it all home. The people become more than just statistics.

This brings us to the greatest atrocity of the One Year War, Operation British, a.k.a. “the colony drop.” During the initial events of the war, in a period known as the “One Week Battle,” the Zeon army did the unthinkable and used one of the Earth Federation-sympathetic space colonies of Side 2 as a projectile and dropped it on Earth in an attempt to directly attack the Federation headquarters of Jaburo. This event is perhaps the most significant event in the entirety of the One Year War for the sheer scale of destruction it causes.

In Clash at Loum, we see how everything plays out. The Zeon army takes control of the colony and shut down its ports, preventing anyone from leaving. As the worried population inside can do nothing but watch, the Zeon forced begin coating the outside of the colony with heat-resistant paint—a move that the inhabitants assume is merely to cut off light and drown the colony in darkness. Once completed, the Zeon forces move on to their next step, gassing the entire colony, killing every living being inside.

We’re shown this event play out in a short story between two lovers. One goes to the colony’s shelter to hide with her family hopefully until they can be rescued by the Federation. Her lover promises to wait outside the shelters to protect her. Gradually, the colony grows silent and one by one, the animals and people outside begin to die off. As the young man outside begins to realize something’s amiss, he tries to get into the shelters, hoping to be with the one he loves. He perishes still grasping at the door’s handle, and then we are shown a view of inside the shelter where everyone is already dead.

It’s short—and almost cliché in a way—since, as a viewer, we already know what’s going to happen. But it adds a weight to the horror. To add insult to injury, we see that the soldiers who pump the gas into the colony view the whole thing as a mercy killing so that the inhabitants don’t have to live to see what’s coming.

(Note that in Mobile Suit Gundam: 08 MS Team, we’re shown a flashback where the protagonist Shiro Amada is there when they gas the colony. The events in Origin make that unlikely as, even if he had been there, he would not have been able to escape before the colony drops. Also, 08 MS Team shows that one of the Zeon characters from 0083 Stardust Memory, Cima Garahau, piloted a Zaku used to gas the colony, but again, in Origin, we’re shown that the gas was entered directly into the colony’s air filtration system and that no mobile suits were used.)

Image source: 機動戦士ガンダム THE ORIGIN on Twitter

The Zeon forces then proceed to attach rockets to the colony to push it out of its stable orbit so that it will collide with Earth. The colony is met with resistance from the Federation forces and breaks up during entry, with part of it colliding with Australia and the other fragments hitting North America and Siberia.

As a result, both directly and indirectly, half the human population dies.

The scene of watching the colony fragments colliding with the Earth and the tremendous destruction it causes is nothing new to me. But watching the preceding events, suddenly the whole thing gains an emotional element. By personalizing it, the horror becomes that much more amplified. And not just on the Earth Federation side. We see the mental anguish it causes Dozul as he breaks down in his wife’s arms, weeping that he’s responsible for the death of billions. He’s tormented by the fact that he’s been blessed with a beautiful baby girl while, simultaneously, he’s snuffed out the lives of countless other babies. It’s only his love of his family and his wish to protect them that allows him to push past it. It’s a tragically moving scene where I found myself feeling empathy for this monster while knowing that what he’s done is far beyond redemption.

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Image source: 機動戦士ガンダム THE ORIGIN on Twitter

The Gundam franchise has often offered stories with heavy emotional impact. While this isn’t the first time a series has retroactively added emotional weight to the events of a previously released series, this is by far the most impactful I have experienced. My favorite Gundam video game is the tactical simulation, Mobile Suit Gundam Gihren’s Greed where the player takes the command of either the Zeon army or the Earth Federation in the One Year War after the Loum battle. I’ve always enjoyed playing on the Zeon side, but now that I’ve seen Gundam: The Origin V, I’m not sure I’ll be able to play it with the same feeling again. There’s an event late in the game—depending on how you’ve played it—where you can choose to drop another colony on Earth to nullify Jaburo’s defenses. I’m not sure I’ll be able to select it now I have a more personal connection with what I’ve learned happened the first time.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin V Clash at Loum is scheduled for release in Japanese theaters on September 2, 2017.

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